Thursday, July 20, 2006

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: ROBOT UPRISING

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 20, 2006



The robots are rebelling.

In perhaps the funniest e-mail I saw last week, the state Republican Party was seeking forgiveness from some of its members.

“Dear Sandoval County Republicans,” the message began. “Please accept our sincere apologies if you received an autodial late last night. Our new phone system was programmed to shut down at 8 p.m. but there was a malfunction. We have shut down the system and are looking into what caused the glitch. Again, we apologize for the late night call. If you have any questions please call our office ...”

A simple mistake, you might be tempted to think.

Not so fast.

Consider what happened early last month to Democratic attorney-general candidate Gary King.

About 11 p.m. the Friday night before his contested primary race came to a head, a couple of thousand Democrats were startled by a ringing phone. When they answered, they heard the recorded voice of former Gov. Bruce King — Gary’s dad — urging them to vote for his son.

The calls were supposed to have gone out a 11 a.m. the next day, the King camp sheepishly explained.

Another “malfunction.”

Are you willing to believe these two incidents are mere “coincidence”?

Gentle readers, can’t you see that the phone machines are purposely malfunctioning in a true bi-partisan effort to alert the politicos that most folks really hate getting these annoying automated telephone calls?

Some political operatives might not have a conscience, but apparently their machines do.

Chances are nobody will heed these warnings, and by November, our phones all will be ringing off the hook every night with recorded messages from politicians — local, state and national, Democrat and Republican — begging for our votes and driving us nuts.

But what if these robots mean business? Ever see the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey?

What if the next time the machines try to warn us, they don’t tamper with the time of the call, but the message itself? A little spontaneous digital editing could make a candidate appear to say crazy and disgusting things.

“Hello, I’m Gov. Bill Richardson and I just killed your cat ... ”

“Hi, I’m John Dendahl. I have X-ray vision and I’m looking into your house ... ”

“Daisy, Daisy ... ”

You never know about these machines.

If I were running a campaign, I sure wouldn’t chance it.

Attention pickers and singers: The state Music Commission wants your photos and song samples. Nancy Laflin, the commission’s executive director, said this week that musicians and bands can upload photos and up to three song samples (no more than 20 seconds each) for the commission’s Web site for free.

About 300 acts are currently on the state Web site, Laflin said, though not all of those have taken advantage of posting their pictures and music.

This isn’t just a vanity project, Laflin said. There is potential payoff.

“It really comes in handy for referrals,” she said. In recent days, someone working for a large movie production currently shooting in the state called up asking for a traditional mariachi group to perform in the film, Laflin said. “Another production was looking for a fiddler and bass player from the same band.”

The Music Commission’s Web site is www.newmexicomusic.org. And yes, it’s far easier to use than the Secretary of State’s page.

Speaking of Web sites: Both gubernatorial candidates have them up now. Republican John Dendahl just this week went on line with www.dendahlforgovernor.com.

Much of it’s still in development, but Web surfers can find several old newspaper columns by the candidate in the “John’s Archives” section. And lots of pictures of skiing with Dendahl and his family. In fact, the top of his home page shows a photo of the former Olympic ski-team member (in his words) “busting champagne powder in the mountains of his beloved New Mexico.”

Richardson’s site — www.billrichardson2006.com — has been up for several weeks and has more bells and whistles. You can watch all his campaign ads there and even listen to a podcast featuring the governor and his wife.

One thing Richardson’s site has that Dendahl’s doesn’t is a place to contribute money online. A spokeswoman for the GOP candidate said a contribution and other features will be added.

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